Araex, Superheroes of Spanish wines.

When I received the press tasting invitation, I had no clue who was Araex wine group. Even when I was living in Spain, I never heard about the company. By doing a bit of digging, I discovered, they are driving force of some of my favorite Spanish wines.

Image result for justice league

In a sort of way, Araex remind me of one my favorite comical superhero teams, the justice league. In 1993, Javier Galaretta brought together a band of talented from Rioja Alavesa to spread the good word of Rioja domestically and abroad. Later, other winegrowers joined forming one of the most important independent wine associations in Spain. Araex exports in 70 countries and sells more than 11 million bottles in the international market.

Araex is the poster child for the Spanish wine industry. In 2001, they were named best export company by the Ministry of Agriculture in Spain and in the same year, another sister company was created to accommodate more members: Spanish fine wines. In 2013, they did it again by creating The Grand Wines Premium to accommodate new product lines and innovation.


Sebastien Richard, export manager of Araex

If every wine domaine would follow the mision and values of Araex, Spain would be ahead of Italy and France in the fine premium market. The country has everything going for themselves: good prices, excellent terroir and climate. This was a good part of the discussion that I had with Sébastien Richard, the export manager of Araex in his recent passage in Montreal. The invitation was a courtesy of their Quebec importer LBV International


I tasted a fantastic quartet of Spanish whites that demonstrate the potential that the country has in the category. A Val de Vid Verdejo 2016 ( SAQ # 12260281, $14.80 ) from Rueda: pure, delicious green apple and orchard fruit. On the mouth, straigthfoward, fresh. Nothing complicated about this wine with a ridicolous price. Please, bring me a bowl of steaming clams to have with it!!!. 

Rias Baixas is one hottest places to make whites in Spain. This Pazo de Senorans Valdosares 2016 ( SAQ #  00898411, $23.45) excites me with its vibrant tropical fruit notes. Round and crisp with a good lenght. Harmonious with subtle mineral nuances. I will have anytime a seafood risotto with this wine. A different character, the Val de Vid Verdejo 2016 was richer and riper with a creamier and floral side. A fleshier and longer wine, this could be the wine that I have been loking for to have with grilled halibut and braised cippolini onions.

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The Pazo de Senorans Seleccion de Anada 2009 ( Private Importation, $74.00. Case of 6) was something very special. I have never had an Albarino aged in wood. Its something out of the twilight zone. Marked by apricot jam, membrillo and barlett pear, it is super dry and structured. Very tight with a ravishing acidity, it took for a ride in the palate with its pockets of bursting fruit. I can have this wine anytime with poultry cream based dishes.


Moving on the with the reds of the portfolio, I had a magnificent Ribera Del Duero. Valtravieso Esencia 1 2015 ( SAQ # 12886849, $19.50) has a magnificent complex nose bringing to mind spices, dry black fruit with subtle roasted herb nuances. The structure and flavor profile brings to me mind a left bank Bordeaux from St-Estephe. Fleshy, nervy with a tarry tannic expression. Hard to believe that under $20, we can find Ribera del Dueros at this quality.  Wood is very well integrated. On a chilly day, I will have this wine with an oxtail stew.

The Valtravieso Crianza 2015 ( Private Importation, $24.95, Case of 12) shows the greatness that Ribera del Duero can obtain. Pronounced aromatic complexity. Leather, smoke with cinnamon, licorice and mineral dust. Great palate. Powerful, yet fine tannins and very balanced. This wine echoes a Valbuena Vega Sicilia. Buy this wine by the case and aged it for a least 15 years. Should be great with braised beef ribs.

Moving on with the Riojas we had the wines of Baigorri. I had a crianza 2014 ( Private Import, $27.61. Case of 12). Too powerful for my taste, it had a very pronounced wood nose with extracted jammy black fruit. However, on the palate, it had a good acidity and the finale show a bit of drying tannins. Maybe, it needs some time in the cellar to come all together. For sure, it will please the fans of modern Riojas. A wine of this caliber, needs sanguine meat cuts grilled on a charcoal BBQ.

We finish off with the Baigorri Reserva 2009 ( Private Import. $34.75, Case of 6). Very deep and profound with  hardcore notes of wild black fruits, spices, and new wood. Showing a bit of evolution, it was mindblowing with flavors bringing to mind summer truffle, blackcurrants, dried leaves and tamari sauce. Hard tannins but a  great balance. Would have this wine anytime with pulled beef sandwiches.



The joys of winter BBQ with wine



The author of this blog

I am back from an unexpected break due to some new circumstances in my life that require dmy attention. During that time, I have brush up my cooking skills in all aspects. I have been revisiting different cooking techniques including BBQ. Actually, i have to admit that enjoy better barbequing during the winter season rather than the summer.

There is something inviting of the cold Quebec winter that lures me to being outdoors cooking. Problably it is the smell of the cool crisp winter air. It feels so clean that it makes you want to escape from the stuffy indoor environment. However, it takes someone with a high tolerance to cold. Even to this date, I continue to wear shorts while I am outdoors.

There is another reason while I like to being outddors making food in the winter. It permits to have as an aperitif, spirits with the excuse of warming up. It is the best time to enjoy a Spanish brandy. In a  BBQ video that I made, an acquintance of my wife suggested that it was a charming setting to have a hot wine. Although, I agree with her, I rather have a glass of Cardenal Mendoza.

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For a weekday BBQ meal, why not have a glass of Torres 10 Imperial Gran Reserva.( SAQ # 00094367, $31.00). A great Spanish grape brandy from Torres, made from Catalan grape varieties and aged using a solera made from American oak. Dark topaz colour, with fine old gold tints. Of a pungent aroma, it displays an intense bouquet – more metaphysical sthan spirituous – with hints of spices (cinnamon, vanilla). On the palate it is round and full of  tannins, developing a rich and long aftertaste.

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If budget permits why not have a glass of Emilio Lustau Solera Gran Reserva Brandy de Jerez. ( SAQ # 12467151 ,$77.00).  This Brandy brings memories  of whisky matured in sherry casks (think Macallan, Glendronach, Glenfarclas…), only more sweeter. There is lots of raisins and figs, milk chocolate, thick caramel and vanilla character. Molasses and tofee complement the nose along crushed almonds. On the mouth, a good dose of dried fruits, mainly dates, chocolate coated figs and with rum & raisins. A bit of  candy apple as well.After the initial wave of sweetness, which could be a little overpowering for some, it settles down on nuts such as  hazelnuts and spices (pepper, cinnamon) and just the perfect  hint of smoked wood. Long, dark with a  sweet finish.

After your meat is done, and you are cold enough to go back inside, it is time to  eat. I reccomend a bold red to stand the bold flavors of the BBQ. Finca Villacreces Pruno 2015 would do the job just fine ( SAQ# 11881940, $23.20). Dark fruit tones, maple taffy caramel, licorice. On the mouth, good structure with a well acidity and tannis. This classic wine from the Ribera del Duero keeps getting better with time. 

Another interest wine  to have comes from the Priorat. More powerful than the Ribera del Duero, it will keep you warmer.  The Gratavinum 2 Pi R Priorat 2011 ( 11307163, $30.25) has dark chocolate notes, herbs and  extracted black fruits. On the mouth, modern and plush, concentrated  with a massive tannic charge. Not the style that I favor on a regular basis but once in a while, it is good to have when you are outdoors.


Spanish winter reds to survive January


The start of winter was clement in Quebec in the last week of December. I was warm enough just wearing a sweater and a shirt. However, when the thermometer drop to -25c as this week in some parts of qc, it is time to take out the heavy jacket.

Here are my reccomendations on what to drink for what could be the coldest month of winter. All this wines should be drank with copious amount of meat and bean stews to reconfort yourselves.

I tasted some of these wines at the latest Grande degustation in November 2015.The vintages that i tasted might not be in the SAQ shelves. Also some of the wines are available in the private market only.So if you are reading this blog in Quebec, grab what you can find. For my international audience, use wine searcher

Vina Herminia Excelsus 2012. Rioja. SAQ Code:  12278296. Price: $23.95

Lovely leafy blackcurrant fruit with violets undertones. On the mouth, the wine is full body and quite modern. Flavors bring to mind sultry vivid black fruit aromas. Luscious with ripe tannins.

Vina Herminia Reserva 2010. Rioja. SAQ Code:  12604119. Price: $24.95

Traditional Spanish nose. Dry spices, black jam fruit, seasoned american wood. Full body with a modern profile. Sweet ripe fruit with silky tannins. Beautiful balance with a nice concentration.

Mas Igneus FA112 2011. Priorat. SAQ Code: 11691986 . Price: $41.75

Black mass of ripe black fruits, pebbles with shades of game and animal nuances finishing in dry spice notes such as paprika, cardammon, black pepper and anis. In the mouth, the wine is full body, concentrated with a beautiful layered texture. Very balanced with a long stunning finale.

Gratavinum 2010 Priorat. ( Trialto, Private Import )

On the nose, massive notes of black fruits, cedar, licorice with lots of candied violets. Very concentrated but nicely balanced with the a i

Tinto Figurero 15 Reserva 2012. Ribera del Duero. ( Private Import, Vintrinsec )

Deep roasted black fruit nose with a strong mineral poise. Full body with an exquisite balance and elegance for all that power.

Milagros de Figuero 2012. Ribera del Duero. ( Private Import, Vintrinsec).

Complex nose bringing to mind smoke, animal with notes of dry black fruits. Full body, with retronasal flavors more on the flower side than in the black fruit spectrum. Sultry and ripe tannins with a long finale.

Spanish presence at the Trialto Tasting


Trialto, one of the leading agencies in the Canadian wine importing business, hosted on June 9th, their second annual tasting. I was in the company of other members of the Quebec wine press. The wine tasting was an intimate gathering and was followed by a fine selection of cured meats and fine cheeses. The Spanish wine presence was quite high, about 30% of the wines tasted. From 17 wines presented, five were from Spain. Most of the wines are available all year round in the Quebec market, with two exceptions that I will mention below.

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Navarra-Garnacha, Bodega Artazu 2013. SAQ Code: 10902841. Price: $15.45

On the nose, aromas that bring to mind different layers of black fruit. In addition, black pepper with paprika nuances. In the mouth, full body, fruity in the mid palate. Dusty tannins with a medium lenght finish. 87\100

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Catalunya-Montsant Mas Collet, Celler de Capcanes. 2012. SAQ Code: 642538. Price: $17.55

On the nose, aromas of redcurrants with dark plums and roasted herbs. In the mouth, full body with confit red berries flavors . Great tannins expression. 90\100

Rioja-Izadi Reserva 2010. SAQ Code:  12604098 ( Lot Specialty to arrive in August )

On the nose, noble oak notes with distinctive nots of crayons. In addition, cofee with ripe dark fruits. In the mouth, full body with coconut and cocoa flavors. Brambly tannins. Difficult to approach nose because of its youth. 90\100

Voir la photo agrandie du produit. Cette photo s'ouvre dans une visionneuse et peut comporter des obstacles à l'accessibilité.

Ribera del Duero-Pruno Finca Villacreces 2013. SAQ Code: 11881940. $22.45

On the nose, lots of red ripe red fruits with smoke and barnyards. Less oak than previous vintages. In the mouth, lovely flavors of leafy blackcurrants. Big but quite polished tannins. 92/100

Voir la photo agrandie du produit. Cette photo s'ouvre dans une visionneuse et peut comporter des obstacles à l'accessibilité.

Castilla-leon. Rueda Basa. Telmo Rodriguez 2014. SAQ Code: 10264018. Price: $16.45

On the nose, lots of green and tropical fruit character. In the mouth, medium body. Fresh and a bit sparkling. Lovely citrusy fruit character. 89/100


The tasting was more special, because during lunch, we were lucky to have the presence of Juan Palomar from Grupo Artevino. Mr. Palomar is the export area manager for Artevino in the North Aamerican market. This is a group of wine companies led by the Anton family. They include Izadi ( Rioja), Finca Villacreces ( D.O Ribera del Duero), Vetus ( D.O Toro and Rueda) and Orben ( Rioja).

I had a nice dialogue with Juan regarding the style of Izadi in Rioja and Villacreces in Ribera del Duero. Regarding Izadi, it is a very special since it marries the traditional style of Rioja with the modern one. I also was pleased with the latest vintage of Pruno. There was more fruit character and less oak.

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Hasta Luego

The perfect Spanish red wine for weekday drinking and a Ribera del Duero for the weekend.

The appellation of Yecla has a reputation of producing of robust, high alcohol wines with an inky appearance and heady aromas. However, I might have found the exception of the rule with the 2012 Las Carretas Monastrell.

Bodegas y Viñedos del Mediterráneo, also known as Altos del Cuadrado, is the proyect of the Castaño family in Jumilla and Yecla . In both winemaking regions, Monastrell is king.

A name given to Mourvedre grapes grown in Spain, Monastrell is a big wine with complex and deep flavors. Primarily used in blending, Monastrell stands alone well as a delicious red. As a function of Spanish terroir, Monastrell tends to have a deeper plum and licorice note compared to other varieties of Mourvedre.

Rezin imports Las Carretas in the province of Quebec. This is a private import available in case of 12. At $14.85, it is a hard to beat for the quality delivered. My tasting notes below:

Las Carretas Monastrell D.O Yecla 2012

On the nose very fresh aromas of black berry fruit with violets, licorice and cracked black peppercorn with juniper berries. On the mouth, full body, with an incredible freshness. Crispy fruit that reminds me of raspberry coulis, with hints of fennel seed this wine has an  amazing silky texture with easygoing tannins. A very floral retronasal with a very polished finale. Quite possibly, the best value in the Spanish wine value at the moment in the private importation segment in Quebec. 93\100.

Food Match: Anything from blood sausages, chorizo to Paella or other poultry based rice dishes containing rabbit or hare. 

Here is a very nice little video that talks about the wine regions of Murcia:

Recently, in a recently arrival of the SAQ Cellier, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that one of the wines of the Matarromera Group was available in the province of Quebec. Matarromera is a very important player in the fine wine market of Ribera del Duero and in Spain.  Bodegas Emina is sourced from the Valbuena ring of paths, a very important wine sub region of Ribera del Duero.  The Emina Crianza 2010 is a 100% tempranillo with 12 months barrel aging and a further 12 months in bottle. It is sourced from a vineyard called  Pago El Coto de San Bernardo which have a mixed soil composition consisting of clay, sand and limestone which explains why it has such as powerful structure. My tasting note below:

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Emina Crianza 2010. $27.20

Dark violet colour. On the noses aromas of dry black fruit, cocoa, meat extract with iron nuances. In addition, violets with couscous spices. On the mouth full boby with a powerful structure. Good acidity with flavours of cassis, black cherry. In addition, cloves, toasty oak and vanilla. Ripe tannins and long finish. 95\100. One of the best Ribera del Duero available on the Quebec market at the moment

Food Match: Perfect with any a Bavette marinated in homeade bbq sauce over a hot fire. 

Here is a short promotional video of  Bodegas Emina that explains what they are all about:

Emina is represented by Valmonti in Quebec. This was a sample given by the agent for review in this blog.

The Rivalry between Rioja and Ribera del Duero


In Spain, the two main classic wine regions are Rioja and Ribera del Duero. Over the years, a friendly rivalry has developed between these two years. Often, the two regions are compared against each other. In this post, i will try to shed some light between the differences between these two giants.

Rioja became the first Spanish wine region to get doc status in 1925. In 1991, they received the most prestigious Denominación de origen Calificada (DOCa) which is very similar to what the italians call DOCG. In contrast, Ribera del Duero 1982 (It was called then Ribera de Burgos). In legal terms, Rioja is older than Ribera del Duero. Ribera does not posses the DOCa but many experts suggest that they should grant them, since it exist an historical quality precedent.

The geographical area of the DOC Rioja comprises the municipalities of Rioja and the basque country, with some areas of production in Navarra. The principal production areas are Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja and Alavesa. Naturally, the terroir and climate is taken into consideration to define the boundaries of each area.

The  D.O. Ribera del Duero is located on the southeast part of Castilla and León, particularly in the provinces of Burgos, Segovia, Valladolid and Soria. The most important cities in this D.O are Aranda de Duero, Peñafiel, Roa and San Esteban de Gormaz.

It is important to mention soil and climate, since it will determine how the wine taste alike

Rioja Alta has clay and chalky soils with a moderate continental climate. Rioja Baja is drier with a semi mediterranean climate and the soils are again clay type but with a rich mineral character that recalls iron. Rioja Alavesa has moderate winter temperatures with low incidence of frosts  and a landscape consisting of an abrupt orography and chalky soils. To resume, the soft temperaturates of Rioja permit a slow ripening of the grapes.

On the other hand, Ribera del duero has a climate characterized by low rainfall and extreme temperatures that combine the cold winds of the winter with the dryness of the summer season. As a consequence, the ripening of the berries will be less, making highly aromatic and concentrated wines but at the expense of finesse.

The D.O. Ribera has very diverse soils. In the part with the highest altitude, there is a mixture of limestone and chalk. In the mid-slopes sand and clay. In the lowest part just limestone.

In Rioja with regards to the grapes authorized , there are four red authorized:(Tempranillo, Garnacha tinta, Mazuelo and Graciano) and three white varietied (Viura, Malvasía and Garnacha blanca). However Tempranillo is king on those parts.

On the other hand in Ribera del Duero,Tempranillo, Cabernet, Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec are authorized,Garnacha and Albillo as well but in small quantities. Like in Rioja, the most important variety is Tempranillo.

Rioja has white, red and rose wines while Ribera del Duero only make red and roses. Rueda does not count, although it is considered by some as a satelite of Ribera del Duero.

In both DOC’s, traditionally wines have been classified according to their aging requirements: jóvenes (no aging in wood), crianza (minimum 2 years aging, one of them in wood), reserva (minimum 3 years aging, 2 in wood and 1 in bottle).Gran reserva (minimum five years, 2 in wood and 3 in bottle).

My Rioja wine picks of the moment:

Sierra Cantabria Crianza 2009. Code SAQ:  00741330. $22.10

On the nose ripe aromas of plums, prunes and red and black fieldberries. In addition, lots of spice character remind me of middle eastern cuisine. Also, licorice and present notes of oak. However, not dominating the nose of the wine. In the mouth, full body with a very polished texture. Long and smooth in the palate with flavors reminding me of mocha, blackberries covered in chocolate. Lush but with a impressive acidity. Powerful and concentrated bringing to mind  high end bottling of Rioja such as El Bosque. Keep this crianza on the cellar for 5 years. It still needs a bit of time to come to perfection. 92\100

Vina Gravonia Rioja Crianza 2004 – white wine-Code SAQ: 11667927: $30.25

Golden colour with amber nuances, aromas of butterscotch pudding with coconut, bitter orange and dry fruit notes. In the mouth, medium to full body with a grea acidity despite 10 years and great retronasal flavors. Again that intrepid bitter orange with some minerality. Also very perfumed, reminding me of toast and the Boudoir of my grandmother. Very long with an intriguing finale reminding me of popcorn. 95/100

Glorioso Reserva 2008. Code SAQ:  00857599$25.40. ( The link is for the reserva especial 2007)

Light to medium ruby colour. Ripe concentrated red fruit nose with leathery nuances. Nice oak integration with raspberry dark chocolate. Sweaty with hints of nail polish. In the mouth, full body, fresh and nicely concentrated. Well balanced. Chewy in the mouth with more animal nuances and ripe raspberry and cherry candy notes. Long in the mouth with a rather long aftertaste. 92\100

My Ribera del Duero picks of the moment too:

Rolland Galarreta Ribera del Duero 2010. Price:$26.70. Saq Code: 12258391

Beautiful concentration of dark blackberries, damson plums with a flowery and spicy character. In the mouth, full body with a smooth-silky profile. Medium to high acidity. Concentrated with lots of dry fruit extract. Precise and well made wine. Massive and chewy tannins. 92\100

Tinto Pesquera Ribera del Duero. $43.50. Saq Code: 10273088.

Very aromatic nose displaying black fruit paste, moka and dark chocolate notes. In addition, notes of seasoned wood. In the mouth, full body. Highly structured with firm and austere tannins. Complex flavors come to mind ranging to ripe black fruits, graphite, tanned leather to indian spices. Very long finish. 94/100.

Ribera del Duero 2011

Here are some Ribera Del Dueros wines that I have tasted recently. More on the 2011 vintage on a later post.

Lopez Cristobal Crianza 2011. Code SAQ:  00642512$27.15

Dark ruby colour. On the nose multilayered aromas of caramelized and jammy black fruit. Present notes of oak such as vanilla and new wood. In addition, lead pencil, violets and lots of spice character ( cinnamon and christmas cake come to mind). Such a beautiful raw fruit showing lots of depth. On the mouth, the wine is full body, powerful yet with very silky and seductive. Dense, rich and very long. However showing a beautiful elegance to it. Flavors remind me of vivid strawberry and dark raspberry with powdered flowers and minerals. In addition licorice candy and anis complement the retronasal flavors. Bitter finish showing some raw tannins force. Also the fleshy fruit, gives you the impression that you can chew the wine. Long lasting finish. This baby needs a decade to settle down. 93\100

Domino de PingusPsi.Ribera del Duero 2011. Code SAQ: 11940612. $43.00

Beautiful tears on the glass.On the nose the wine displays very pure and fresh black fruit aromas with notes of licorice, star anis,violets. A subtle note of oak in the background with a ethereal minerality. Full body with a good acidity. Corpulent with a good tannic structure. Long in aftertaste that remind me of dry jerk meat and black truffle. 95\100

Torres Celeste Crianza 2011. Code SAQ: 11741285$21.55

Lots of black plums, blueberry and cherry with notes of mocha, licorice and vanilla. In the mouth, full body with a medium to high acidity. Flavors remind me of oak, cigarrette tobacco and balsamic notes such as rosemary. Austere finale. Very promising. 93\100